Those of us who have had a mastectomy or bilateral mastectomy need to be aware of certain situations that can occur after having a breast or breasts removed. What follows is a list of some of these things:
Phantom Breast Pain – You may have a feeling pain in the breast that has been removed.
Phantom breast pain can happen after mastectomy for the same reasons phantom pains happen after limb amputations. The brain continues to send signals to nerves in the breast area that were cut during surgery, even though the breast is no longer there.
Phantom breast pain after a mastectomy includes the following sensations where the breast used to be:
- pain and discomfort
- pins and needles sensation
Before you self diagnose phantom breast pain, bring it to your surgeon’s attention for confirmation.
Lymphedema – swelling of the soft tissues caused by a build-up of lymph fluid. In the case of breast cancer treatments it usually occurs in the arm and/or hand.
Lymphedema can happen days, months, or years following breast cancer treatment, especially a mastectomy and can be temporary or permanent. that is why it is so important to take steps to prevent lymphedema such as:
- Avoid skin irritants, hangnails and torn cuticles as well as tight- fitting clothing or jewelry
- No steam rooms, saunas, very hot baths, whirlpools or sunbathing
- Don’t take shots, have blood drawn or blood pressure taken on affected arm. Note: in the case of a bilateral mastectomy, speak with your surgeon about what parts of the body these procedures can safely be performed.
- Tennis, racquetball, bowling and golf are considered risky
- Do not wear heavy shoulder bags
- The National Lymphedema Network recommends avoiding lifting heavy packages or objects such as grocery bags weighing more than 8 pounds
Exercise – consult your surgeon and your plastic surgeon, if you have reconstruction, as to when you can begin an exercise regimen following surgery and what exercises are appropriate. Your doctor can refer you to Cancer Exercise Specialist.